THE BASICS OF CRIMINOLOGY

BLOG | January 5, 2019

THE BASICS OF CRIMINOLOGY

What is Criminology?

An interdisciplinary science that gathers and analyses data on various aspects of criminal, delinquent, and general antisocial behaviour. It is different from the discipline of criminal justice. Criminal justice & law is concerned with how the criminal justice system investigates, prosecutes, and controls individuals who have committed crime, while criminology wants to know why those individuals committed crimes. As with all scientific disciplines, the goal of criminology is to understand its subject matter and to determine how that understanding can benefit humankind. In pursuit of this understanding, criminologists ask questions as: -

  • Why do crime rates vary across different ages, genders, and racial/ethnic groups?
  • Why do crime rates vary across time and from culture to culture?
  • Why are some individuals more prone to committing crime than others?
  • Why are some harmful acts criminalized and not others?
  • What can we do to prevent crime?

The scientific method as mentioned above is a tool for separating truth from error by demanding evidence for any conclusions. Evidence is obtained by formulating hypotheses derived from theory that are rigorously tested with data.

Criminality on the other hand is a clinical or scientific term rather than a legal one, and one that can be defined independently of legal definitions of crimes. Crime is an intentional act of commission or omission contrary to the law and is property of society; Criminality is a property of individuals that signals the willingness to commit the crimes and other harmful acts. Criminality is a trait that lies on a continuum ranging from saint to sociopath, and is composed of other traits such as callousness and impulsiveness that also vary greatly among people.

Defining criminality as a continuous trait acknowledges that there is no sharp line separating individuals with respect to this trait- it is not a trait that one has or does not have. Just about everyone at some point in life has committed an act or two in violation of the law but that doesn’t make us all criminals. The point is, we are all situated somewhere on the criminality continuum, just as our heights range from the truly short to the truly short to truly tall. Thus, both height and criminality can be thought of as existing along a continuum, even though the words we use often imply that people’s heights and criminal tendencies come in more or less discrete categories (tall/short, criminal/noncriminal)[1].

The legal making of a Criminal

No one is a criminal until he or she has been defined as such by the law, which makes it necessary to briefly discuss the process of arriving at the definition. The legal answer to the question “what is criminal?” is that he or she is someone who has committed a crime and has been judged guilty of having done so. Before the law can properly call a person a criminal, it must go through a series of actions governed by well-defined legal rules guiding the serious business of officially labelling a person a criminal.

What constitutes crime?

Corpus delicti- a Latin term meaning “body of crime” and refers to the elements of an act that must be present in order to legally define it as a crime.

Actus reus means guilty act and refers to the principle that a person must commit some forbidden act or neglect some mandatory act before he or she can be subjected to criminal sanctions.

Mens rea means guilty mind and refers to whether or not the suspect has a wrongful purpose in mind when carrying out the actus reus.

Concurrence- the act and the mental state concur in the sense that the criminal intention actuates the criminal act.

Causation- it refers to the necessity to establish a casual link between the criminal act and the harm suffered

Harm- the negative impact a crime has either on the victim or on the general values of the community.

 

To be continued …………….

MADHUR CHHABRA

ASSOCIATE

[1] Criminology, The essentials by Anthony Walsh.

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